Veteran crime writer Reginald Hill, whose new oalziel and Pascoe novel, Pictures of Perfection, is published by llodder & Stoughton this week, talks to Sue Wilson about a couple of his favourite fictional characters.
‘This book I have coming out has quite a lot of Jane Austen in it, one way and another - I use her letters for chapter eplgraphs and so on - so I thought it might be rather apt to pick a couple of characters from her books. One of my favourite Austen characters is Mr Bennett in Pride and Prejudice, who puts up this splendidly ironic defence against being in the midst of this very feminine household, surrounded by all these daughters who’ve got to get married, and his wife, who’s a garrulous, non~stop plotter.
‘Austen is marvellous at men, even though she never permits herself the luxury of getting inside their heads, or showing two men alone together — she lets them project themselves marvellously. And you can tell that although she doesn’t altogether approve of Mr Bennett because he’s a bit of an idle devil, that she still recognises his predicament — that the problem of being a woman in that society, which is that you’ve got to get married, there’s nothing else open to you, is very much a problem shared by parents, and Mr Bennett represents one way of dealing with this problem. 1 have a friend who has three daughters, and over the years I’ve seen quite a lot of Mr Bennett in him.
‘looking at Austen’s female characters, I think I’d pick someone out of Emma, which seems to me the nearest she came to writing a detective novel — it’s full of puzzles needing to be solved. There are some marvellous characters in there, but it’s one of the minor characters that I like most, Miss Bates, this old lady who is actually a tremendous bore, she goes on all the time, one of these non-stop talkers - we’ve all met her — and yet she’s not a caricature, in spite of all this she’s a happy woman, and a woman “who no one ever named without goodwill”.
‘Mlss Bates is an example of something which is always the sign of a great writer - she’s there neither just as a whim, someone to have a bit of a laugh at, nor simply as a device; she’s an excellent character who, though minor, plays a crucial part in the story. That’s what I like about Austen, her skill at organising, the pace at which the plot moves, the way that tvery character and every incldent fits into a whole - it’s very lean and hungry writing, though you never get a sense of that as you’re reading, it isn’t obviously pared away, but there’s a lot there, and it’s all contiguous to the whole.’
I Gravity is Getting Me Down Fred P1isner(Heinemann £9.99) Born in Vienna in 1920. one Alfred Klausner moves to Berlin. by way of
Manchester.just in time for the election
of the Nazi Party to office. Thence he travels via Switzerland. Pan's and points French to Spain and. eventually, to Palestine. Not such a hot ticket for a Jew. given the particularly virulent strain ofanti-Semitism pervading Europe at the time.
With such a weighty subject. Plisner’s semi—autobiographical ﬁrst novel could have been an old man’s depressed and depressing look at a rotten century for his people. But conventional it is not. Flippant. anecdotal. self-effaeing and eventually chilling. this is lightweight thinking aloud. a suitably secular serenade to the sane in the world. Klausner and, you are led to believe. Plisner himself, had a relatively easy war: it is the reader’s knowledge of Dachau et a] that gives the jocular tone its serious edge. That. and Plisner’s well-honed cynicism. (Thom Dibdin)
BANGS AND WHISPERS
I They Whisper Robert ()len Butler (Secker & Warburg £14.99) in middle age. lra Holloway * American.
Vietnam vet. tluent Vietnamese speakeri
— examines his obsession with the women he has known, most of them Vietnamese prostitutes used during the war. His ruminations are sparked by his wife Fiona. a psychotic sex-abuse survivor who demands sex daily. instantly. Wontcn fall at lra's feet. He‘s just that sort of guy. The prostitutes loathe other customers. but fellate him rapturously: one woman gives her life for him within hours of meeting. He fantasises about her afterwards. as he
I The Virago/Society of Women Authors and Journalists Centenary Award Details front SWWJ/Virago Prize. 442—42 Gloucester Crescent. London. NW1 7Pl). A new award. known as the Pauline Graham Prize. of £2000 (plus an advance from Virago) for the best proposal for a new biography of a woman who lived in the last 100 years. ()pen to all women writers under 40; closing date June 30 199-1.
I Charles Palliser Thurs 3. 6.30pm. John Smith & Sort. 57 St Vincent Street. 221 2472. Free. Readittg by the much-lauded author of The Quincunr. frotn his new novel Betravals (Jonathan Cape £14.99). I Bad Girls: Pamela Sneed - Bight From Your Life: Writing And Performance Sat 5. 11am—1pm. £3 (£1). Women-only workshop with the African-American poet and performer. focusing on using autobiography to create poetry and theatre.
I Janice Galloway and Sian llayton Mon 7. 8pm. Victorian Bar. Tron Theatre. 63 Trongate. 552 4267; info Roona Campbell. 334 7221. £3 (£1). Readings and discussion with two leading Scottish writers. organised by the feminist research/campaigning group Engender.
I Precipitous City: Stevenson and Edinburgh Throughout the spring and summer. Mon—Sat noon—6pm. Thurs 2—8pm. Scottish Poetry Library. Tweeddale Court. 557 2876. Free. Exhibition featuring poems. places and pictures illustrating Robert Louis Stevenson's links with the capital.
I Kathleen Jamie, Ian Stewart, Mark Ogle Suit 27. 8pm. Tron Ceilidh House. Hunter Square. info 033 336 491. Readings front three Scottish poets; Jamie
was recently named as one of twenty ‘new
generation' British poets. to be featured in a UK-wide promotion in May. Plus music from Sandy Semeonoff. frontman with Glasgow cajun outfit Zut! La Chute.
I Charles Palliser Wed 2. 7pm. \V'aterstone's. 128 Princes Street. 226 2666. Free.
I Dorothy Rowe Wed 2. 7pm. Waterstone‘s. 13 Princes Street. 556 3034. Free. Talk and singing session with the semi-legendary psychologist. therapist
does about an acquaintance who has a mastectomy. And he tells us how large his penis is. Butler -— American.
Vietnam vet. fluent Vietnamese speaker
intended the book. apparently. as a
lyrical exploration of physical intimacy
between men and women. Bttt it‘s hard to avoid the feeling that lra's real love is for lra and that lra is. well. Butler. We‘re meant to see Ira as sensitive. soulful. But something
else is discernible here -- vanity. tremendous self-regard. and a very
peculiar sensitivity that confuses love I with buying prostitutes and compares '- the lteat of passion to napalm. (Cathy
attd author. whose latest book. Time on Our Sit/e tllatpchollins £17.99) takes a fresh look at the ageing process.
I Angela McSeveney and Brian
2 Whittingham Wed 2, 7.45pm. £3 (£2).
Readings from two contemporary Seottish poets. organised by the Poetry Assocratton
: of Scotland.
= I Shere llite Thurs 3. 7pm. Waterstone's. : 128 Princes Street. 226 2666. Free. The
i veteran chronicler of sex, sexuality and
the sex wars discusses her new book The I Hite Report on the Family (Bloomsbury
£20). I David Bellamy Thurs 3. 7pm. Waterstone’s. 13 Princes Street. 556 3034.
Free. The artist. not the naturalist. giving a
' paintingdemonstration in aid of the
conservationist John Muir Trust. based on his book The Wild Places ofBritain (HarperCollins £16.99).
I Women in Publishing Thurs 3. 7.30pm. Filmhouse. Lothian Road. info Alison Jones 343 2050. Free. No details on content at time of going to press - call the number above for tnore information.
I Rebel Inc at the Centre Thurs 3. 8pm.
Unemployed Workers‘ Centre. Broughton Street. info Neil Cooper 556 6889/Kevin
Williamson 659 6336. £2 (£1). The radical new writing magazine presents an evening
3 featuring readings from Cal King (young
Glaswegian author of uncompromising poetry. much of it about S&M lesbianism). Brent Hodgson ('a sort of lvor Cutler on mescalin‘) and Toni Davidson (young Glaswegian performance poet). plus special guests.
, late bar and sounds ‘from the feverishly I manic to the goldfishly ambient‘.
I Women Writing: A Scottish-Irish Ceilidh of Ideas Sat 5. 2pm-1ate. Traverse Theatre. Cambridge Street. 228 1404. £5. or £10 including the evening performance of Men — An Irish Musical (see Theatre for details). Talks. performance. readings. discussion and music. with writers and other contributors including Rona Munro. Joy Hendry. Nuala ni Dhomhnaill and
' Gerardine Meaney - full
details/programme from the box office.
I Sesame Street Live Sat 5. noon. Waterstone's. 83 George Street. 225 3436. Free. Special preview of the kids’ stage spectacular coming to the Playhouse soon. with Bert, Arnie and the Cookie Monster. I Margaret Elphlnstone Mon 7. 7pm. Kirkliston Library. Station Road. 333 3899. Free. A ‘meet the author'
I Alan Clark: Diaries (Phoenix £6.99) As these are Clark‘s diaries. as opposed to memoirs. the resulting read is genuinely rcvealittg. possessed of an immediacy which obviates any risk of nostalgia. An account of the political world that is anything but dry. the Diaries are littered with idiosyncratic slang. along with remarks which reveal Clark to be a ﬁrst- class. unashamed lecher. Unexpectedly readable attd amusing.
I Stir-Fry Emma Donoghue (Hamish Hamilton £9.99) Art imaginative and well observed first novel. set amid the potentially disastrous flatshares and urban seclusion of Dublin university life. When seventeen-year-old fresher Maria discovers that her new flatmates are lesbians. it is. at first.just one more conundrum to be negotiated as she adapts her small-town ways to big-city life. but the trio's growing friendship eventually provides her with valuable guidance and unexpected new perspectives.
I The Drum: llew Writing From Glasgow
3 University (£1) At last. a publication
produced by Glasgow students that provides an outlet for new writing (stories. poetry. ‘ideas‘ ) attd isn't a barely edited piece of self-indulgence. In accordance with the stated editorial intentions. there is a decided literary air to The Drum. a strength that makes it well worth seeking out in its Glasgow bookshop distribution network.
1 (Helen Waddell)
reading/talk with the popular Scottish writer.
I Iona McGregor Mon 7. 7.15pm. Stockbridge Library. Hamilton Place. 332 2173. Free. First in a series of talks by Edinburgh women writers.
I Leah leneman Tue 8. noon. Central Library. George 1V Bridge. 225 5584. Free. The author of Into the Foreground: A (‘cnturjv of'Scottis/t Women in Photographs presents an illustrated talk about the book.
. I Margaret Thomson Davis Tue 8. 2pm. ' Gilmerton Library. Gilmerton Dykes
Street. 664 6842. Free. Talk and reading by the author of such modern Scottish classics as The Breadnutkers (just reissued by B&W) and .4 Woman of Property.
I Liz Lochhead Tue 8. 7pm. Blackhall Library. Hillhouse Road. 336 3277. Free. ‘Meet the author’ session with the ever- popular poet and playwright.
I Reginald Hill Tue 8. 7.30pm. Waterstone's. 83 George Street. 225 3436. Free. Reading and singing by the veteran crime author. here to promote his latest Dalziel and Pascoe novel Pictures of Perfection (HarperCollins £14.99).
I A.l. Kennedy Wed 9. 7pm. South Queensferry Library. Shore Road. 331 1697. Free. Reading and talk by the acclaimed young Scottish writer. author of the recently published short-story collection Now That You 're Back (Jonathan Cape £8.99).
I Joan Lingard Wed 9. 7.15pm. Stockbridge Library. Hamilton Place. 332 2173. Free. The highly regarded author of many books for both children and adults reading from and talking about her latest (adult) novel After Colette.
I Pomegranate Women’s Writing Group Thurs 10. 7pm. Central Library. George 1V Bridge. 225 5584. Free. Readings of recent work from the long-established Edinburgh writers’ circle.
I Janice Galloway Thurs 10, 7.30pm. Craigmillar Library. Niddrie Marischal Gardens. 669 4095. Reading and talk by the leading Scottish writer. author of The Trick Is To Keep Breathing and Blood. whose new novel Foreign Parts. to be published by Cape in early April.
I Central Writers’ Workshop Second and fourth Thursday of each month — next meeting Thurs 10. SNP Club. 16 North St Andrew Street. info 555 1875. 50p per session. Open, informal forum for reading and discussion — all welcome.
70 The List 25 February—10 March 1994